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In granting the divorce, the court may divide all of the property that came “to either party by reason of the marriage.”  MCL 552.19.  The trial court’s first consideration when dividing property in divorce proceedings is the determination of marital versus separate assets.  Byington v Byington, 224 Mich App 103, 114, note 4, 568 NW2d 141 (1997).  This distinction between marital and separate property has long been recognized in this state.  Charlton v Charlton, 397 Mich 84, 92, 243 NW2d 261 (1976).

Generally the marital estate is divided between the parties, and each party takes away from the marriage that party’s own separate estate, with no invasion by the other party.  Separate property includes that owned prior to the marriage.  Reeves v Reeves, 226 Mich App 490, 575 NW2d 1 (1997).  It can include property meant to be part of an inheritance or gift.  Dart v Dart, 460 Mich App 573, 597 NW2d 82 (1999); Hostetler v Hostetler, 46 Mich App 724, 208 NW2d 596 (1973), and Brookhouse v Brookhouse, 286 Mich 151, 281 NW 573 (1938).  A spouse’s separate estate may be open for redistribution when one of two statutorily created exceptions, is met.  Reeves v Reeves, supra.

The first exception to the doctrine of non invasion of separate assets is found at MCL 552.23, which permits invasion of separate estates if after division, “the estate and effects awarded to either party are insufficient for the suitable support and maintenance of the other party.”  The other statutory method for invading a separate estate is available when the other spouse “contributed to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of the property.”  MCL 552.401.  When one party significantly assists in the acquisition or growth of a spouse’s separate asset, the court may consider the contribution as having a distinct value deserving of compensation.

Questions About Dividing Property in Michigan?

If you have questions about how property is divided in Michigan, please contact our Detroit divorce attorneys at (734) 254-1140. Located in Plymouth, MI, Carlo J. Martina, P.C. proudly serves Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Livingston counties.